Head Start Arithmetic Fail

[Newspaper Fail] A recent article in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, once again stoked my frustration with newspaper journalism. It's a sob story about the recent closing of a Head Start program in Newmarket, NH. Lead paragraph:

The closing of Newmarket’s nearly 20-year-old Head Start Program in June — caused by the federal sequestration — has forced the parents of more than a dozen children to either drive to a nearby community for the program or to just stay home.

So: eek, that's awful. Those mean and nasty Republicans.

But wait a minute: just a few paragraphs down:

According to the national Head Start website, funding was cut nationally by about 5 percent for the nearly 50-year-old program.

So, let me get this straight: a 5% cut at the national level translates into a 100% cut at the Newmarket program? How does that work, exactly?

You don't need to be a math whiz to smell some untold story here. And I mean that literally: the Foster's story doesn't even attempt to explain the discrepancy.

Could this, for example, be "the so-called Washington Monument maneuver"? (Also known as the "gold watch" tactic, or the "firemen first" principle.) The idea is that "cuts" are taken primarily from highly visible, easily publicized services. Like, um, your local Head Start program. The easier to get people riled up and demand the "cuts" be undone.

Not that I have any brief to hold for Head Start. It's expensive, even after a minuscule cut to its funding, and even after decades of research, nobody's established that the program has any lasting benefits to the kids it is supposed to serve.

But you won't hear about any of that in Foster's.